NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: The following is an abridged transcript from a discussion that took place on the Shrink Tank Podcast. The following includes commentary from four mental health professionals.

Are all types of kind acts equally rewarding? A new study published in the Journal of Social Psychology sought to test out this question by investigating how different types of kind acts affect our happiness.

The researchers split the study into four types of kindness:

  1. Directing kindness towards people you’re close to.
  2. Directing kindness towards people you’re less close to.
  3. Directing kindness toward yourself.
  4. Observing the kindness of other people. 

The results? Researchers found that kindness in any form made participants feel equally good.

Despite the context that kindness is occurring, it is one of those things where we are all experiencing challenges in our lives and it’s a subjective experience.

Our perception of life is simply our opinion and if we are speaking harshly to ourselves or if we are being mean to other people, it fosters animosity and resentment. So then when we take time to slow down and think about how we can give to others and make it less about me and more about us, it naturally feels good because it is something that’s outside of you.

You are not focused on your own issues. You’re then focused on how you can help someone else. 

Interestingly, that kindness expressed towards yourself gives you the same kind of benefit as doing kind things toward other people.

We all have to work on being kind to ourselves because of the high expectations and standards we put on ourselves. We want to do the best that we can in a variety of areas, so it’s natural to set standards for yourself.

That said, you’re only hurting yourself by not practicing self-kindness. Because then when you have a negative thought it can breed frustration and cause you to feel guilty and slow down. 

Clinically, a big part of practicing self-kindness has become getting people out of themselves a little bit and doing things for other people.

Finding a volunteer opportunity or some way you can devote energy to a group that you can serve isn’t just being kind to others.

By practicing kindness toward others, they are practicing kindness to themselves in some meaningful way.


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